President Barack Obama is considering sending large numbers of additional U.S. forces to Afghanistan next year but fewer than his war commander, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, prefers, U.S. officials said.
President Barack Obama is considering sending large numbers of additional U.S. forces to Afghanistan next year but fewer than his war commander, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, prefers, U.S. officials said.Such a narrowed military mission would escalate American forces to accomplish the commander’s broadest goals, protecting Afghan cities and key infrastructure. But the option’s scaled-down troop numbers likely would cut back on McChrystal’s ambitious objectives, amounting to what one official described as “McChrystal Light.”Under the pared-down option, McChrystal would be given fewer forces than the 40,000 additional troops he has asked for atop the current U.S. force of 68,000, officials told The Associated Press.Senior White House officials stressed, however, the president has not settled on any new troop numbers and continues to debate other strategic approaches to the 8-year-old Afghanistan war. The officials say Obama has not yet firmly settled on the narrowed option or any other as his final choice for how to overhaul the war effort.Two officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because Obama has not announced his decision, said the troop numbers under the narrowed scenario probably would be lower than McChrystal’s preference, at least at the outset. The officials did not divulge exact numbers.The stripped-down version of McChrystal’s plan still would adopt the commander’s overall goals for a counterinsurgency strategy aimed at turning the corner against the Taliban next spring.But that pared-down approach would reflect a shift in thinking about what parts of the war mission are most important and the intense political domestic debate over Afghan policy.A majority of Americans either oppose the war or question whether it is worth continuing to wage, according to public opinion polls dating to when Obama shook up the war’s management and began a lengthy reconsideration of U.S. objectives earlier this year.Any expansion of the war will displease some congressional Democrats, while Republicans are likely to accuse Obama of failing to give McChrystal all of what he requested.A stripped-down approach would signal caution in widening a war that is going worse this year than last despite intense U.S. attention and an additional 21,000 U.S. forces on Obama’s watch.